Category: church

What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?

In mid- to late-2007, I first came across this term in mailings from my former church’s youth pastor, who had gone into new ministries.  He was starting this kind of church, so I wondered what it was and began researching.

It’s basically rebuilding Christianity from the ground up, not relying on denominations or doctrines or preachers or anything but the Bible, not even needing a pastor.

You have tiny groups doing worship, prayer, communion and Bible study with a leader.  This can be your church, or alongside your regular church.

It is very easy to get into all sorts of heresy in this kind of setup.

It derides practices which are good and right, such as imitating Jewish worship (which was prescribed by God himself) and paying a priest/pastor a salary.

I have looked into the practices of the Early Church, including writings from that time; I find the claims of the Simple Church founders regarding the Early Church to be inaccurate and misleading.

Frank Viola is a big part of the Simple Church movement, and he’s the one who wrote Pagan Christianity, charging that paganism infused the Church shortly after its inception.

I am extremely concerned because Viola rips apart everything about the historic Church which makes it the One Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church.

Some quotes from this page:

Does a house church need a leader or pastor?

Although all house churches are different, and they decide individually how they want to do things, in general there are no “pastors.” At least there doesn’t need to be.

We believe that the Holy Spirit can use any believer to teach or encourage the group. In a house church, everyone is expected to participate and be looking for ways to use the gifts the Holy Spirit provides (see 1 Cor. 14:26).

Certainly there is usually a facilitator of the group (although it doesn’t need to be the same person that facilitates from meeting to meeting).

We believe that even a new believer could start a church in their home without feeling like they need a trained professional to come and lead it, or needing money to support such a person.

We find that the lack of a specified pastor encourages every person in the group to look for answers by searching the Scriptures and looking to the Holy Spirit, rather than depending on the pastor to interpret.

….What do you do when you get together?

Again, this will vary from church to church . . . but here are some of the basic elements that tend to be present in every house church:

FOOD – When you get together, eat! It provides a great atmosphere for people to have honest open communication with each other.

OPEN PARTICIPATION – 1 Corinthians 14:26 is the basis for what we do when we get together. The key is “Each one has…” Everybody should be able to take part.

BIBLE STUDY – Keep it simple and interactive. A great technique is to look over a few verses together and then share with each other what each person gets out of the verses.

PRAYER – Find out what is happening in each other’s lives and take the time to pray for each other. Expect God to move powerfully and to speak to the group as you pray.

SIMPLICITY – Make sure that whatever you do can be duplicated. If the church is going to multiply rapidly it must be kept simple.

How do you handle ceremonial events?

This is yet another area where many house churches differ, but here are some suggestions:

WEDDINGS – We usually encourage couples to have a civil wedding (in front of a Justice of the Peace) on a Friday to deal with the legal issues, and then have anything that they and their house church want for the real wedding that weekend.

BAPTISMS – Be creative! We have had (or heard of) baptisms in jacuzzis, bathtubs, swimming pools, and lakes.

LORD’S SUPPER – Again, the way that people in different house churches handle the Lord’s Supper varies widely. If you are interested, Steve Atkerson wrote an interesting article on the Lord’s Supper called “The Last Snack“(printed in issue 1 of House2House magazine).

In a group like this, how do you prevent the spread of heresies?  A group which doesn’t even have a real pastor?  No seminary degree, nothing, unless he happened to get one through his former denomination?

Some articles about it:

Simple Church

House Church Basics

Frank Viola’s Blog/Website

Books by Frank Viola

Interview with Frank Viola in which he claims the Church is full of paganism

What do we mean by “Simple Church”?

Beware of it and do not fall for it!  It could do a great deal of damage to the Church.

A blog critiquing Viola’s Pagan Christianity: Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Postlude.

A blog criticizing this sort of church from the Orthodox perspective: Where the West is headed now, and how the Eastern Church might play a role

Written between 2007 and 2009

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

On the Didache

This short book was once part of the New Testament.  It is supposed to have been written by the Apostles as a guide to Christian life, though many dispute that claim: The Didache

Written in 2006

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

On Ecumenism (Inter-Denominational Christian Dialogues)

Dialogues between various Christian churches have been going on for decades.  There is hope for unity one day, which can only make the Church stronger.

Here I have collected links to documents from or about, or summaries of, these dialogues, particularly the ones involving the Catholic and Orthodox churches:

Between Catholic and Lutheran

Between Orthodox and Lutheran

Another between Orthodox and Lutheran

Between Catholic and Orthodox

Between Catholic and Reformed

Between Orthodox and Reformed

Gatherings of documents for many such dialogues

Interconfessional dialogues

A Reformed perspective on ecumenism

An Orthodox Wiki article on ecumenism

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) has had a productive conversation with the Orthodox Church and now rejects the contested filioque clause in the Nicene Creed.  See here.

Written probably in 2006

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts? Or, how *should* we evangelize, then?

An amusing and scathing take on the value of criticism in the church–as opposed to saying, “You shouldn’t criticize praise music/popular writers/mega-churches/people doing the Lord’s work”: “Talk Hard” by the late Internet Monk

Moving New Religions from the Fringes to Mainstream shows that we must critique these things, since many trends damaging to the witness of the Church have been allowed to go on, unchecked.

For example, says the writer, Philip Johnson,

Laity and pastors alike seem to be enamoured with Christian fiction, particularly novels that cast new religions and alternate spiritualities in the role of an identifiable social and spiritual enemy.

This observation is supported by the massive sales for Frank Peretti’s novels This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, and the Left Behind series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

He refers to the plots of such works as propaganda, morality tales, McCarthyism.  He says that depicting new religions as “the source of Antichristic power” leads readers to not respect the followers of those religions, which damages our witness to them.

He also is disturbed that the attitudes of readers toward these religions are being “powerfully influenced by pop novels.”

This page also addresses courses you find in evangelical churches these days on how to evangelize, discipleship, etc.

For example, he complains that many of these courses have apparently not been “road-tested” with non-Christians who are not influenced by churches.  The courses give answers to questions that are important to Christians, but often have little in common with questions people are actually asking.

He also says that Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life program is a product of “Southern California Christian culture,” and does not work so well in other cultures.

I know what he means, because I have experienced a few of these courses.  For example, one course gave a lot of pat answers to a list of stock questions a non-Christian might ask, but these answers may not always work in the real world.

One stock question was, “But what about people who sincerely believe in their religion?”  The pat answer was, “You can be sincere, but sincerely wrong.”

This might work on some people.  But there are many people in this day of cynicism and alternative religions who would say to that, “Well, how do you know that you’re not sincerely wrong?”

Or, “That’s arrogant!”

Or, “My religion calls that attitude, morally reprehensible.”

Or, “I’m a Pagan, and you’re focusing on the path rather than the ultimate goal of religion.  The kind of person your religion makes you, is more important than which religion.”

The problem is getting into a logical argument over religion, which cannot be proved scientifically.  If you want an effective witness, then your life must be your most important tool.  Show that Christianity is different; don’t just use theological arguments, because a determined person can always find some way to disagree with them.

Here’s a more useful tool for witnessing to Pagans: “How to Share the Gospel with Pagans,” written by a Pagan.

DON’T use Chick Tracts.  The ignorance and paranoia in these tracts is appalling, as is the intolerance (see how Roman Catholics are treated).

They seem to have gotten their information about witches, Satanists, Dungeons & Dragons, etc.–

–from 700 Club episodes, Bob Larson, medieval propaganda, and various other questionable sources–

–rather than asking real, honest-to-goodness Wiccans etc.

If any of that depraved stuff described in the tracts does happen, it’s probably done by serial killers and rebellious teenagers who want to shock their parents.

It is not the practice of actual Wiccans to drink blood, sacrifice animals or babies, pledge allegiance to Satan, or any of that stuff.  For the truth, go here and here.

Also, some of the other tracts are, frankly, appalling: In the “Happy Halloween” tract, a child gets hit by a car and goes to Hell.  The tract about gays portrays ridiculous, stereotypical caricatures, and celebrates a child’s use of the word “queer.”  Various tracts about Roman Catholics say that they are going to Hell, too.

Any D&D gamer can tell you that “Dark Dungeons” has nothing to do with actual Dungeons and Dragons games.  They are not a “gateway drug” into real witchcraft.

How can you make an honest convert through fear and misinformation?

I was shocked one day to discover that we had one of these tracts in our house, the “Who, Me?” tract.  It seemed innocent enough, but its identity as a Chick Tract makes it worthy of Gehenna (the burning trash heap).  It was given to us by an evangelical minister as a tool.  I can only hope he was not aware of the more ridiculous Chick Tracts.

The Religious Tolerance site also has articles on practically any other religion you might think of, such as Satanism.  Articles on Satanic Ritual Abuse are here.  You can research the truth so that you can witness with knowledge and respect, such as the Apostle Paul did.

Evangelicals have gotten a bad name among the followers of alternative religions because many have tried to convert without knowledge or respect, trying to scare with Hell rather than appealing to one’s desire to connect with deity.  This hinders the work of Christ.

Here is an Orthodox perspective on the absolute necessity of religious tolerance, despite our belief that Orthodoxy is true.  The reason: We must not bring injustice on others.

My own feelings: We must be tolerant of and respect other people and their religious beliefs.  Tolerance does not mean that you must adopt other beliefs or say that they are correct.  It just means respecting that other people have the right to think differently than you, even if you believe they’re wrong.

Written between probably 2005 and 2006

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

 

On Spiritual Abuse

Is your church infected by spiritual abuse?  The Apologetics Index has all sorts of links about this.

Also see Churches That Abuse and Recovering from Churches that Abuse by Ronald Enroth.  These are full books on PDF.  The guy who runs this website has a signed letter from Ronald Enroth giving him permission to scan these two books, both of which are out of print.

One practice, now widely discredited because it easily becomes spiritually abusive, was often used in the 60s and 70s: shepherding.

It’s giving yourself over to someone else, your “covering,” who makes all your decisions for you–even who to date or marry, how often to have sex, or what music to listen to.

If you disagree with your shepherd or suggest changes to the group rules, you just might find yourself out of the group, since the leadership makes all the decisions.  Congregations may find themselves with no vote or voice.

In groups which decided the “shepherds” must be the opposite sex, shepherding has also led to adultery.

It has also led to broken people.

Unfortunately, shepherding seems to have re-emerged in many churches and Christian groups–ones which seem orthodox on the outside, so you must watch out for it.

I’ve heard of accountability groups, which seem to have come from this practice; take care that it does not match characteristics of shepherding.

I’ve also noted that talks about wifely submission sometimes use the same terms used in shepherding: i.e., the husband is the “covering” for the wife and she “submits to his decisions” no matter what.

Webpages on shepherding, what it is, how it’s abused:

Shepherding Movement

Christian: Who is your covering?  A Christian look at the Shepherding Movement by Steve Coleman

Shepherding Movement–Discipleship Movement–Christian Growth Ministries–Advanced Information

National Shepherding Movement–Discipleship Movement–Promise Keepers Warning

Article by Don Matzat about this and other issues

The Shepherding Movement Comes of Age by Lynn and Sarah Leslie describes the practice of signing covenants, which exists in many groups and churches.  It also implicates the Purpose-Driven Church model.

Willow Creek charges Promise Keepers and Willow Creek Church with shepherding.  The writers are rather fundamentalist and I disagree with them on many points, but they still make interesting charges.  Whether the charges are true or not, you be the judge.

Here and here, you can investigate whether Willow Creek practices shepherding.  And here, you can check out Saddleback’s FAQ.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot on these sites.  I’ve heard of restrictive covenants and the like, but don’t have proof of them.

Nowadays, you can also find blogs about spiritual abuse, on which you can share stories, find comfort and validation, and learn which churches to avoid.  My favorites:

The Wartburg Watch

Spiritual Sounding Board

Healing from Complex Trauma and PTSD/CPTSD (includes posts about a spiritually abusive pastor)

Written between probably 2005 and 2007

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

 

On Women in Marriage/The Church

I was once engaged to a guy who insisted I say “obey” in the marriage ceremony.  I said I would not.  He said, “I thought you weren’t one of those feminists.”

He was Catholic.  My parents, who would pay for the ceremony, would hold it in our Nazarene church; neither “obey” nor “submit” was in the Nazarene marriage vows.

I never heard in church that I should be an obedient wife.  I refused to have the pastor put “obey” into the marriage vows.

We sometimes argued about this; my fiancé seemed to think that if I didn’t promise to obey him, then if he told me not to go out and have affairs, I would go ahead and have affairs (for example).

The “obey” disagreement was only a symptom of his control issues and emotional abuse.  Eventually he broke up with me, probably tired of my sticking up for myself and refusing to be a doormat.

(Why did I stay with him?  It was probably a combination of, trouble getting dates and hoping he would change.  I suppose I loved him, too.)

His next girlfriend was even more of a “feminist” than I was, so I’m surprised they lasted so long, but they did have a tumultuous relationship and finally broke up.

After finding and marrying a much better man who did not care about wifely obedience, we went to a church which preached a different meaning of submission.

It wasn’t about obedience; it was about the wife submitting to the husband voluntarily and the husband submitting to the wife.  The wife was to respect her husband; the husband was to love his wife.

“Respect” also included “respect for the husband’s role as spiritual head of the household.”  That meant, he would make the decision if there was an impasse, and he was in charge of the spiritual health of the household.

This was much better than how such people as my ex-fiancé interpreted it, because it allowed the woman to have her own opinions and influence decisions.  However, she still seemed to have a second-class status.

I even read an article by Lisa Whelchel in Today’s Christian Woman which said the husband should take over the finances, no matter how bad he was at it!  (I guess my own mother was a “sinner,” then.)  My own childhood church never taught that!  And I wondered how to explain Peter praising Sarah for obeying Abraham and calling him “master.”

Actually, when you take scripture as a whole instead of in bits and pieces, both the husband and the wife are to be totally equal.  Christ explains that rulers in the Church are not to lord it over their followers as earthly rulers would–which he himself demonstrated by example when he went to the Cross to pay the debt to death which freed us from sin and death (Matt. 20:25-28).

St. Paul says that the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church.  So if the husband is the head of the wife in the same way that Christ is the head of the Church, then he is to love her and give himself up for her, not act like “the king of the castle” who must be obeyed.

Here’s an Orthodox view: An Orthodox, Christian Perspective of Marriage by Rev. Fr. Charles Joanides

St. John Chrysostom wrote that “a good marriage is not a matter of one partner obeying the other, but of both partners obeying each other.”  While “the husband giving orders, and the wife obeying them” is “appropriate in the army, it is ridiculous in the intimate relationship of marriage” (p. 72, On Living Simply).  They are obedient to each others’ needs and feelings.

He also wrote that a harsh master, using angry words and threats, causes obedience but not attachment in a slave, who will run away the first chance he gets.  “How much worse it is for a husband to use angry words and threats to his wife.”

Chrysostom went on to describe what, even in our modern age, still plays itself out every day: a husband shouting, demanding obedience to his every whim, even using violence.  But this treatment turns wives into “sullen servants, acting as their husbands require out of cold fear.  Is this the kind of union you want?  Does it really satisfy you to have a wife who is petrified of you?  Of course not.”

Such behavior may make the husband feel better for the moment, “but it brings no lasting joy or pleasure.  Yet if you treat your wife as a free woman, respecting her ideas and intuitions, and responding with warmth to her feelings and emotions, then your marriage shall be a limitless source of blessing to you” (p. 74).

Catharine P. Roth’s introduction to St. John Chrysostom’s On Marriage and Family Life, published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press (Orthodox), says the Pauline epistles give the impression of much freedom and equality between the sexes.  They were missionaries and church patrons; the husband’s body was owned by his wife, just as her body was owned by her husband.

But eventually, “the roles of women became restricted, probably to avoid provoking too much conflict with the surrounding patriarchal society.”

Pagan fathers, husbands or masters needed to know their daughters, wives or slaves would still submit to them if they became Christians; “otherwise life could become very difficult for the women.”

This is why some New Testament epistles tell the women to hold to their traditional roles.  In time, this survival strategy became the norm even in Christian families, so rather than overthrow it, Christian teachers tried to “mitigate its exercise or at best transform it from within.”  St. John Chrysostom, rather than trying to change the patriarchal tradition of marriage, taught couples to transform it with love (pp. 10-11).

This introduction–in a book published by an Orthodox press–suggests to me that we should look at marriage not so much in terms of who obeys whom, but in terms of how to love each other and meet each other’s needs.  Outward customs can change from one culture or one century to another; what’s important is Christian love, respect and mutual submission.

Also read this article from the GOARCH website: Domestic Violence at Home: Cursory Observations by Kyriaki Karidoyanes Fitzgerald  [Update 5/2/16: This link now appears to be redirecting to an erroneous link.  I’ll keep it up in case it’s fixed.]

Now, of course, if you’re still not convinced that the husband and wife should submit to each other, not just the wife to the husband, then here’s a tip to get your wife to submit to you:

Act like you don’t care if she submits to you or not.  Then, if she doesn’t, there will be no hard feelings between you.  If she does, it will be willingly, with no resentment on her part.

Also note that yes, indeed, there were women apostles: Junia, Priscilla, Mary Magdalene, Thekla, Nina.

Phoebe was a deaconess (woman who ministered to women in ways improper for a male deacon) who got a personal recommendation from Paul: Apostolic Succession by Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Jr.   So when Paul says he does not allow a woman to teach, he can’t possibly mean that no woman can ever preach or teach men.

Even the Catholic Church, which at the present time is adamantly against women priests, recognizes “Fathers and Mothers of the Church,” or primary teachers of the Apostolic Tradition in the Early Church.  Another class of teacher is called “The Doctors of the Church”; three were women.  Teachers of the Church by Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Jr.

St. Gregory of Nyssa held a lengthy dialogue with his learned sister in On the Soul and the Resurrection.  He called her “The Teacher.”

Also see this article on Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles.

As for the Orthodox restriction against women priests: As explained to me by an Orthodox believer around 2006, there were women preachers in the Early Church, but not ordained women who distributed sacraments etc.  Modern Protestant churches have preachers taking on the roles of priests, not just preaching but distributing sacraments and taking charge over a church, so we tend to lump the words together when examining the Early Church.

As the explanation continued, the Orthodox do not have a problem with women teaching men (though a layman who preaches is rare).  They allow women all sorts of leadership roles, even the role of epistle reader in the Liturgy.  The highest role possible for humankind in the Church, the Mother of God’s human incarnation, was given to a woman, Mary.

Who was the first apostle?  As my priest explained it, it was not one of the Twelve Disciples–rather, it was Photini, the Samaritan woman at the well.

See Women’s Ordination by Frederica Mathewes-Green, an Orthodox writer who herself has preached in the Orthodox Church!  She writes, “Non-sacramental ministry, such as preaching, is open to non-ordained people, as long as they are continuing in the faith and worship of the Orthodox Church, and in obedience to a spiritual father or confessor.”  She also gives examples of Orthodox women evangelists, theologians, apologists, rulers, etc.

But Orthodoxy does have a problem with women distributing the sacraments, because the priest represents Christ giving Himself to the Church (the bride).  The Eucharist is not just a memorial; it’s not just about Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross; it is also intimate communion with Christ, Christ and the Church (the bride) becoming one, a spiritual counterpart to marriage.

So in any church in which the Eucharist is seen as Christ’s real body and blood, if a woman distributes the sacraments, that’s vaguely homosexual (which is frowned upon in Orthodox marriage).

Summary of Church’s arguments

Concerning Women’s Ordination by Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

An Interview with Bishop Kallistos Ware re: the Role of Women in family/the Church

OCA Q&A: Ordination of Women

Written between probably 2005 and 2007

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

On Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology, Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it

These doctrines suffer from the serious error of thinking God is there to make you rich and/or to make all your dreams come true.

God never promised he would provide us with a spouse, a fancy house, a wonderful career, perfect health, or even children.  God never promised he would take away all our suffering, hard times, or poverty.

He did promise to keep us fed and clothed and to be with us as someone who can empathize.  Suffering, hard times and poverty are seen as leading us to salvation.

“Name it and claim it” sounds like demanding God do something for you, rather than “humbly bringing all your requests to him.”  Who are we to demand God give us anything?

Word-Faith Theology

Word-Faith Movement

Also see here, where I go into more detail on the subject.

Written around 2005

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church